LET’S say you’re determined to drop that weight, and this time you’re doing everything right. You’re cutting fat-packed foods from your diet as much as you can. You’re feeding up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole-grain breads and cereals. Plus, you’re exercising more consistently than you have in recent months. So then, why aren’t you shedding those pounds? It’s maddening when you honestly believe you’re putting forth your best effort and it’s still not being rewarded as you feel it should be.
Your diet dilemma could have a number of explanations. It’s just a matter of understanding what’s going on and making a few simple switches. Below are some reasons. Try to make the necessary adjustments, and before you know it, your weight loss will soon be back on track.
Being too rigid. Many people believe that being perfect in their diet will guarantee success, but it’s actually more important to be flexible than to be rigid. Let’s say that your favorite restaurant where you could always count on having a delicious low-fat meal suddenly goes out of business, and now you have to find other unfamiliar ones and you’re afraid to adjust your menu. Your attitude may then be, if you can’t have what you’re planning to have, you’ll have whatever you want. And that may set up a new cycle of overeating and dieting. An unexpected change in plan need not mean the beginning of the end of your weight-loss program.
Not eating enough. Your metabolism is a tricky devil. Eat too much, and it won’t be able to burn all those calories, so you gain weight. Eat too little, and your metabolism — perceiving that you’re starving yourself — gets desperate to help your body hang on to the calories you are consuming; it slows to a crawl. Result? Little or no weight loss. Studies have shown that drastic calorie-cutting diets don’t work, not in the long run and sometimes not even in the short run. Health experts agree that it’s just as vital to eat sufficient quantities of the right foods as it is to cut back on the wrong ones. If you don’t consume enough calories, even if you’re on a weight-loss plan, you may see a slowing down or even a total cessation of your weight loss.
Not satisfying those cravings. “In order to lose weight successfully , you have to have a certain level of inner satisfaction, which you get by eating things that make you feel good,” says Ronna Kabatznick, PhD, psychological consultant to Weight Watchers International and a specialist in weight control. If you don’t eat those things, you’ll walk around feeling deprived on a psychological level and deprived on a physical level, and eventually you’ll binge or start eating more of the things you don’t particularly want. Giving yourself a little of what you crave now and then will actually help you choose the rest of your meals more wisely.
Falling off the wagon. Diets may not work as well the second, third or fourth time around. When you embark on a weight-loss diet for the very first time, your body typically sheds some water, some fat and some muscle mass. But anytime you put weight back on, your body only regains fat, which is harder to lose than muscle. So if you’re a diet veteran, don’t be surprised if it’s taking longer and requiring a greater effort to make those extra pounds go away. Be patient — your persistence will pay off.
Taking certain medications. Unfortunately, if you have health problems that require certain prescription drugs, they may slow down your weight loss. For instance, corticosteroids. Used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, they tend to cause water retention and stimulate the appetite. Check with your doctor to see how you can make the appropriate adjustments in your diet while continuing your medication.
Changing body needs. As you age, your body just naturally requires less energy to maintain its current weight. So whatever may have worked before in helping you shed pounds may not quite do the trick with each succeeding birthdays. Be prepared, therefore, to either reduce your caloric intake a little or increase your level of exercise.
“Invisible” eating. They’re the little things you’re not even aware you’re eating: that piece of candy in your purse, that extra pretzel, those foods that come with sauces that you just accept. You think it’s okay to have them; but it’s not okay unless, of course, you want to keep your weight stuck where it is.
Taking baby steps instead of big ones. It’s actually easier for many people to make dramatic changes in their eating than small ones. For example, if you continue to eat red meat and merely reduce your portion sizes, you’ll feel deprived and you’ll never really lose your taste for it. As a result, you’ll still crave it, keep eating it and probably have a hard time dropping those pounds. But if you give meat up completely, not only will you be eliminating lot of fat from your diet but after a while you won’t even miss the taste.
Getting bottled up. Check that label on the bottle of light beer, zero in the fat column. There’s none there, right? That doesn’t make it okay. One study found that alcohol may impair the body’s ability to burn fat. Maybe that’s why people who down more than two drinks a day tend to pad up around their middles.
Being a member of the Clean Plate Club. Some habits die hard and many of us simply can’t get used to the notion of deliberately leaving food behind, especially when we’ve paid good money for it in a restaurant. But as you’re downing every last morsel on your plate, keep in mind that you’re probably eating more than your weight-loss diet calls for.
Combining fat and sugar. You’re in the mood for a treat. That’s fine every so often and in reasonable quantities. Just make sure it’s not cheesecake or any other combination of fat and sugar. The decadent duo works to increase your waistline like this: When sugar hits your bloodstream, your body releases a flood of insulin in response. That insulin triggers your fat cells to open. So the fat in the cheesecake that follows goes right into storage. If you must eat fat, at least try not to combine it with sugar.
Eating to please another person. “Go on – have some!” For every time you successfully sidestep that offer, there may be one or two you simply can’t resist. Your determination to eat only when you want to may be solid, but it takes a strong will to refuse to try one of your daughter’s homemade brownies, or to keep from disappointing your husband when he says he wants you to share some pizza with him. Diet saboteurs lurk everywhere, and although they may insist they want to see you thin, they may also want you to eat when you’d just rather not. For your weight’s sake, learn how to say no, graciously and firmly.